With the Boston City League Volleyball All-Star game tied 20-20 in the fourth set on Saturday afternoon, Nancy Liu had the ball in her hand on the service line and one thought in her head: Get the ball over the net.
“I was actually really nervous because every time we [practice] serving my coach is always like ‘Just get the ball over,’” the O’Bryant senior said. “Sometimes you want to try to win it but my mind was just ‘Get it over, do it simple’ and let my teammates do the rest of the work.”
That game plan paid off as the Red team scored the next four points off Liu’s service before ultimately defeating the Blue team two points later, 3-1 (25-16, 18-25, 25-21, 25-21) at UMass Boston’s Clark Athletic Center.
Liu was happy to keep the match from going to a fifth and decisive set.
“I just worked with my teammates, that’s the most important part,” she said. “Getting the ball over the net is just one important part and the rest is you have to depend on your teammates. Just keep in simple.”
Perhaps the biggest helping hand came during a long rally that ultimately put the Red squad up, 22-20. Just when it seemed like the Blue team would grab the point and the momentum, English High’s Massiel Ramirez plucked a ball at its apex above the net and managed to find an open piece of floor.
“It was great, I didn’t meant to do it,” she said. “It was great. I didn’t think I was going to come here but I made it.”
Boston International’s Antonea Green said her Blue team struggled with the Red team’s serve all day.
“Today was a good game, we played our heart out and it just happened,” she said. “We just hesitated and when they started serving we started getting scared. Other than that we did a good job and I’m proud of them and I’m looking forward to next year.
“It was amazing and I enjoyed it. It was my first year playing.”
The game was the last high school volleyball game for several of the players, including the Red team’s Heidy Barreiro, who helped Boston English win its fourth city title in five years.
“It means a lot because all the hard work paid off,” Barreiro said of winning the city championship. “We worked hard together.”
The Blue squad was coached by Madison Park coach Gladys Byrd, who led the Blue team to a 3-0 sweep last year at Emmanuel College.
“In the All-Star game it’s more important to play all the kids than to win I told the kids ‘It’s not about winning and losing, it’s about being an All-Star and being able to represent yourself and your school and your division,” Byrd said.
English coach Hardy Mondesir co-coached the Red squad with O’Bryant coach Trudy Fisher. Mondesir gave Fisher all the credit.
“She knew the players and knew when to put in the right players and the defense definitely helped,” he said. “This is my first time. it was fun. It was definitely good to get a more collaborative effort. We had a lot of good players offensively and defensively. It was fun."
And Fisher credited Liu’s solid serving in the final points of the fourth set.
“She’s a pretty consistent server and we put her in and she came through,” Fisher said. “I think the kids enjoyed playing. I think this is one of the best All-Star games I’ve seen in a long time.
“It was important to them so they are the ones that did all the work.”
It was a pretty important way for Liu to cap her senior season of volleyball.
“It’s pretty good, I had a great experience in my senior year,” she said. “I’m going to miss volleyball after this.”
The 2013 volleyball all-star game and roster has been announced.
The game is scheduled to be played at noon Nov. 23 at the UMass Boston Clark Athletic Center.
Here’s a look at each team’s roster:
South All - Stars
Coach: Trudy Fisher, O'Bryant
Medgine Joseph , Burke
Djany Gomes, Burke
Kendra Pierre, CASH
Fabiola Michel, CASH
Nalitza Valentin, Dorchester
Tanaisha Willis, Dorchester
Heidy Barriero, English
Maxiel Gerardin Ramirez, English
Idil Barros, English
Camly Phan, O'Bryant
Nacy Lui, O'Bryant
Bonnie Lei, O'Bryant
Emily Chan, Snowden
Elaine Chan, Snowden
Virializ Romero, West Roxbury
Melissa Pena, West Roxbury
Manouska Jean, Snowden
North All - Stars
Coach: Gladys Perez-Byrd, Madison Park
Reyna Joint, Brighton
Gurlandy Laguerre, Brighton
Alex Wilson, BLA
Christina Wong, BLA
Emma Sandlykke, Charlestown
Joselyn Leiva, Charlestown
Renata Pinto, East Boston
Clarita Prudencio, East Boston
Bradley Sanchez, International
Antanea Green, Madison Park
Rebecca Mondesir, Madison Park
Rebeca Saravia, Madison Park
Elainey Wright-McCarthy, South Boston
Jose Honore, South Boston
Jessica Collins, South Boston
Victoria Thong, BLA
Clutching her medal, middle hitter Massiel Ramirez gleamed with a bright smile, saying, "We never lost hope. I knew we could do it."
In an emotional roller coaster of a match, her Boston English volleyball squad came out on top to defeat O'Bryant, 3-1, at Burke High School Tuesday for the school's fourth city championship.
"I knew it was going to be a battle. They played great defense and our girls didn't give up and stayed at it," said Bulldogs coach Hardy Mondesir after the 25-16, 25-12, 21-25, 25-23 win.
"The only thing we had to do was work on defense, because we finally made it as a team, as a family," said Ramirez. "I feel the best in my life. This is the thing I know I am good at and I love doing it. Now I know I'm good at it because I have my medal."
Middle hitter Jasmine Allen's performance at the service line carried the Bulldogs through the final set, bringing them back from a 23-21 deficit.
The set was a point-for-point rally that came after a tightly contested third set in which O'Bryant managed its first lead of the match. When it mattered most, Ramirez hit over a block and managed a service ace to set up the Bulldogs for game point before a timeout. An O'Bryant error settled the set.
Ramirez had her biggest moments in the first and second sets along with outside hitter Heidy Barreiro. They worked side by side to deliver an unstoppable offense.
"[Heidy] is everywhere and she works hard to get every ball," said Mondesir. "[Massiel], the key is her height. The minutes she stays behind the ball and attacks, it's pretty dominating."
Ramirez pounded through a double block to help end the second set, 25-12.
The duo worked to set the bar in the first set by giving the Bulldogs a 10-point lead and control over the volley, allowing Ramirez to showcase her hitting. Barreiro had an all-around consistent performance but shined on the service line, earning Boston English 5 points before forcing O'Bryant to a timeout at 19-11. Errors kept the rest of the set tight.
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After a year's hiatus coaching the WPI women's volleyball team, Hardy Mondesir returned to Boston English and the Bulldogs dethroned an undefeated Latin Academy in the City League semifinals Monday at Burke High School.
Boston English will face O'Bryant, which swept Madison Park, 3-0, in the other semifinal, in Tuesday's championship
English took a hard-fought, five-set match, 20-25, 25-22, 15-25, 27-25, 15-13, one that Mondesir called a "collective team win."
"We're working as a team to get to where we need to be, which is at a state championship. We came in ready to go serve tough. That was the game plan," he said.
Setter Yandra Perez set up her hitters with solid placement, allowing middle hitter Massiel Ramirez to step up her offense. Outside hitter Heidy Barreiro also had strong showings.
Mondesir said nerves got the best of his squad early, but that eventually his girls were able to get back to "bump, set, spike and working on keeping nerves together."
"It's a different game when you have someone jumping and attacking you," he said.
O'Bryant's biggest challenge was Madison Park sophomore Antonea Green, who continuously drilled down hits, keeping the match competitive despite the 25-23, 27-25, 25-12 final score.
"She's phenomenal. She's a wonderful player and she's only a sophomore so she has a lot to look forward to. She does so many facets of the game well so we had to move our defense around her," said O'Bryant coach Gertrude Fisher.
Defense and serving kept her team in control, with stellar play from junior Shayla Newman-Toledo and senior Camly Pham.
"The kids set a goal at the beginning of the season to get to the city championship. I told them it's not something people get often so they better embrace the moment," said Fisher.
Boston English and O'Bryant face off at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at Burke High School.
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Three games to watch in volleyball this week:
East Boston at Latin Academy, 3:15 p.m. Tuesday
A battle of teams at the top of the City League’s North Division. Latin Academy is undefeated in league play, while East Boston has only lost twice. They played earlier this year and Latin Academy took all three sets, so expect the Jets to come back with a vengeance.
O’Bryant at Burke, 3 p.m. Wednesday
O’Bryant is on top of the City League’s South Division, posting five wins in league play. Burke has won two league games but has struggled against the better teams. This match will definitely be close.
Brighton vs. Boston International at East Boston, 4:15 p.m. Thursday
Brighton and Boston International have both struggled this year in the City League North. Although they are both near the bottom, expect this match to be a great one. Brighton got its first win over South Boston earlier this season, while Boston International is still on the hunt for its first.
East Boston at Brighton, 3:15 p.m. Monday
Coming off a five-set win against South Boston last week, Brighton is poised to take on a formidable East Boston squad in its home gym.
East Boston is nipping at the heels of Latin Academy in the North Division. It lost the head-to-head match against the Dragons but is still in position to qualify for the city tournament.
Boston International at Charlestown, 3:30 p.m. Monday
Both teams are playing under new coaches and are still looking for their first win of the season.
A win would be a shot in the arm for either program.
Madison Park at O’Bryant, 4 p.m. Friday
Sparks always fly when these neighboring schools meet.
O’Bryant won the first meeting between these squads Oct. 4 by a score of 3-0 and is still riding high after beating English a day later.
But Madison Park keeps getting better and better, and could knock off the Tigers.
O’Bryant sits atop the South Division while Madison Park is in third in the North Division, fighting with East Boston for the second slot in the city tournament.
The East Boston girls’ volleyball team swept away Boston International at South Boston High Wednesday afternoon.
“Their serving was really good today and their defense,” East Boston coach Vanessa Bigby said after her team won, 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-21).
She also said her 5-2 squad set the ball well.
"Hitting it three times instead of just whacking it over,” she said.
Boston International had a solid team last year but was depleted this year when a handful of players left to join the school’s newly formed girls’ soccer team.
New coach Nylton Andrade took over Boston International (0-5) about three weeks ago when Modesto Gomez had to give up coaching for family reasons.
“We had to recruit most of the girls on the team,” Andrade said. “Most of the girls on the team had never played volleyball before. They just wanted to try something new and they have a good spirit.
“The girls are building on their skills. They were running away from the ball the first couple of games and in a week's time I saw a lot of improvement.
"I think the girls are having fun now. They are actually starting to play like a team, communicating out there. I’m happy. So far so good.”
East Boston, which qualified for the city tournament three years ago, still needs to play both Latin Academy and Madison Park this season and would likely have to pick up a win in one of those matches to make the tournament.
“So hopefully we’ll win those two and I think we’ll be OK," said Bigby. "I’m proud of my girls as always. They always do a good job. They always come fired up.”
East Boston senior cocaptain Clarita Prudencio was encouraged by her squad’s teamwork.
“From the players that were sitting to the players that were starting, they were all cheering us on,” she said. “That was our motivation to win."
After pulling out a tight five-set match against South Boston Wednesday afternoon on the road, the Brighton girls’ volleyball team is one win shy of matching its victory total from last season.
“And we still have 10 more [matches] left,” second-year coach Briea McDaniels said after beating South Boston, 3-2, in the Knights’ shoebox of a gymnasium. “It’s a very encouraging feeling, it shows my girls that they have the potential and ability to beat some of the better teams, and we just did.
“We split with South Boston; they won one game and we won one game, so we’re on our way.“
The Bengals (3-5) got swept in three sets in the first meeting of the season against South Boston. This time, they fell behind early, too, losing the first set, 25-22, before coming back to win the second, 25-12.
“The thing we had to do was communicate between each other and help each other out and together we were able to help each other out and have each other's backs and get the ball over the net,” Brighton senior Reyna Joint said.
“It feels really great. I feel really proud of them. We came together as a team and go for every ball that we could and hit the ball over the net.”
After losing the third set, 25-14, Brighton tied it at two sets apiece by winning the fourth, 25-15.
In the decisive fifth set, Brighton took a 6-2 lead before South Boston cut it to 7-4. South Boston scored the first 2 points after the teams switched sides to cut Brighton’s lead to 8-6 but Brighton went on a 4-0 run to go up, 12-6.
South Boston could muster only 2 more points the rest of the way as Brighton won the fifth set, 15-8.
“We’re getting better, we’re doing what we need to do now,” McDaniels said. “I’m excited for them, I’m excited. I’m very, very happy. “
McDaniels said she’s always known her team had it in them.
“Just believing in them and teaching them to believe in each other and just trust the process,” she said. “It works.”
On Monday, South Boston (3-4) won a five-setter against Charlestown.
“That would have been exciting,” South Boston coach Mary Linehan said of the prospect of winning two five-setters in one week. “That would have been very exciting but I give the kids credit, we didn’t give up."
“They gave us a good fight. They won, so that’s pretty good. We play [Burke] tomorrow and we’ll be ready to go tomorrow. It’s one of those things; a loss, it’s not the end of the world. We’ll be there tomorrow and hopefully we’ll win it in three tomorrow.“
When informed that South Boston won in five sets earlier in the week, McDaniels said it was the first time her team went the distance.
“Now we can do a five-setter, too,” she said.
The O’Bryant and English girls’ volleyball teams had quite a battle Tuesday afternoon when they faced off in front of a packed crowd in English’s auditorium.
The match went all the way to the fifth set, but O’Bryant improved to 7-1 as it defeated a tough English squad, 3-2 (16-25, 25-16, 19-25, 25-15, 15-12).
For coach Gertrude Fisher and her O’Bryant Tigers, the match was all about determination and never giving in despite the odds.
“We made a lot of mistakes out there,” said Fisher. “But we ended up recovering well. This is still definitely a work in progress.”
O’Bryant dropped the first set, 25-16, but came out freshly motivated for the second after Fisher bent her players' ears about keeping at it. The pep talk paid off, and O’Bryant snatched the second set by the same score, 25-16. O’Bryant held tough in the set with some key aces from junior Shayla Newman-Toledo.
English (5-2) opened a 5-1 lead in the third set and took control early. Fisher took a timeout with her squad down 16-11, and it paid off briefly when they cut English’s lead with 4 straight points.
But it was English’s turn to seize the momentum back. Junior Jasmine Allen led a surge by the Eagles and they held on to win, 25-19, for a commanding 2-1 lead in the match.
With her team down and facing defeat, Fisher told her players to stay composed and to believe in themselves.
“Sometimes I have more faith in them then they do,” Fisher said. “They need to know that they themselves can do it.”
And did it they did. The Tigers took the final two sets in thrilling fashion to capture the victory.
Both sets were dominated by junior setter Pham Camly, whose ability to dig spikes and set them up for her fellow Tigers really kept the offense flowing.
“In those last sets, we really started to communicate with each other,” Camly said. “We also stopped making mistakes. My teammates played with a lot of heart today.”
O’Bryant is sitting pretty in the City League standings, with its only loss coming against defending city champ Latin Academy.
Despite the tough loss, coach Hardy Mondesir and his Eagles are still very much in contention, posting an impressive 5-2 overall record.
Mondesir believes his young team should have won but had too many costly mistakes down the stretch.
“We had the momentum,” Mondesir said. “I feel like we gave that one away. We need to work on our serving and setting as a team. And also of course putting the ball where we want it.”
The Cardinals (4-1) beat the Jets (4-3), 3-1, (25-19, 25-20, 25-15) in what turned out to be a thriller in the Madison Park gymnasium. Ultimately the match came down to the consistency of the Cardinals' relentless spikes, led by sophomore hitter Antonea Green.
“We got our game together today,” she said. “We knew we could win, so when we worked together as a team we aced it.”
Both teams came out equally prepared for the first set. There were ties at 4-4, and then again at 8-8. Led by sophomore Ava Salvi, the Jets were able to hang close with the Cardinals, but Madison Park scored five straight points to capture the first, 25-19.
The second set was just as close. The Jets applied pressure and sustained long volleys, but key aces by senior captain Rebecca Mondesir kept the Jets at bay and propelled her Cardinals to win 25-20.
Down 2-0 and facing a sweep, the Jets looked tired. And when the Cardinals jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the third, a sweep for Madison Park looked definite.
But following a timeout and pep talk from coach Vanessa Bigby, the Jets were revitalized.
After hanging tough, seven unanswered points gave the Jets a 20-19 lead, and with the match tied at 22-22, the Jets roared back to take that crucial third set and avoid being swept, 25-23.
“I think they came out with that fire in the third set,” Bigby said. “They wanted that set. But we need to work on our spikes and receiving spikes.”
After seeing some light in the third set, the Jets were then unable to keep up with a motivated Cardinals squad in the final set. Green led a seven-point surge for the Cardinals early, and senior hitter Katherine Lara capped off the victory with a seven-point run of her own.
Madison Park coach Gladys Byrd was happy with her team’s ability to weather the East Boston comeback, but reminded her players they still need to improve.
“We were distracted a little,” she said. “In that third set we missed too many serves, so we needed to get back to our game. And that’s when we started to hit our set-ups, and continued to spike it over.”
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